Jayapura, Papua (Indonesia 13/12). – Papua Police Chief Inspector General Paulus Waterpauw was furious in his condemnation of Chief Brigadier MJH, an officer of the police’s elite mobile brigade, for involvement in arms trafficking activities with armed Papuan criminal groups.
“I feel so sorry since the assault rifles sold to the armed Papuan criminals are used for killing civilians and security personnel, including his (the suspect’s) colleagues,” he notified journalists in Jayapura on Tuesday, last week.
However, gun running riot police, corrupt Gegana (Bomb Squad), and over-eager cops watching too much Miami Vice are not the only problem the Indonesian police faces. Corruption is rife, falsification of evidence is routine, and despite the appearance of a well oiled media machine, very little has changed.
A Gallup report, illustrates the corruption in the police has worsened. Indonesians and foreigners increasingly reject and fight back.
Indonesia’s police often gain notice as one of the most corrupt institutions in the country. When asked if they have confidence in the local police in the city or area where they live, however, 88% of Indonesians say yes.
The KPK, the most feared and best equipped institution for fighting corruption in the police is…silent. Conviction rates of corrupt police officers are non-existing. Abuse is rampant and the Indonesian National Police after years of rebuilding its corrupt image from the decades of abuse had some success in keeping Indonesia a safer place. However recent events and increasingly the public voices are suggesting the police again is fast loosing the public support.
The Jakarta Post editorial board recently wrote, “Changes of guard have happened within a span of two decades and yet the fruits of reform remain elusive to be frank. Instead, over the last few years we have witnessed the police emulate the dual function the TNI practiced in the past, as evident in the appointment of police generals to civilian posts.”
But so far little has changed for Indonesians. A 2019 study wrote,
Police corruption is widespread in Indonesia because of the inadequate budget allocated to the police, police officers are paid low salaries and recruited and promoted on their ability to pay bribes instead of merit, corrupt police officers are not detected or punished and corrupt behavior is tolerated by many Indonesians. Consequently, policy makers in Indonesia can only minimize police corruption if they have the political will and capacity to introduce appropriate reforms to address its five causes.
The counter terror unit has without doubt contributed to a positive image of the police, however the rest of the Indonesian National Police has not. The corruption at the Polres level is horrent. A 2020 report wrote,
The Indonesian police are plagued by corruption, and bribery is widespread, presenting companies with high risks. Police officers solicit bribes on every level, ranging from traffic violations to criminal investigations (HRR 2016). Two out of five people perceive most or all of the police to be corrupt and one in four Indonesians report having paid a bribe to the police services in the past 12 months (GCB 2017).
Reports of secret detention centers run by Polres commanders with the seemingly endorsement of their higher ups tell from detention without registration, extortion, falsification of evidence and documentation are creeping into the public space. Extortion of victims of extra-judicial detention brutally widespread.
Whereas experts agree that ‘tough on crime’ has full support by the public, the corruption of vice squads (drugs, prostitution, and gambling) runs unchanged. ‘Nothing has changed’, says an expert on police reforms. A sentiment echoed by academics. In 2016 a study by the Auckland university study highlighted the problem with police corruption.
Moreover, the global corruption barometer indicates that on a scale of 1 (not being corrupt) to 5 (extremely corrupt) the Indonesian police rate 4.5 (Hardoon & Heinrich, 2013). Police corruption is thus a significant problem in Indonesia.
‘Decades of good will by the public are swept away’, she continued, ‘heavy handed current enforcement by the Indonesian police, has not created the ‘war-on-drugs’, the foreign advisors push for.’
Although the Indonesian police enjoys widespread financial, material and educational support, for instance, Densus 88, enjoys roving door like visits from U.S., Australian, UK and European counter terror units, the U.S. type of Miami Vice operations is alienating the public.
Wrong raids, flawed intelligence and in a recent example, revenge arrests by a unit for a botched raid, suggested poor control of the police just to make the quota and extort money, violating the rights of the victim, very often underaged minors including the son of a head of an international school, a Japanese diplomat and others. Reports of officers molesting woman, breaking in houses under the disguise of a drug raid, steers up sentiment against the police which prompted a criminal complaint by a European police force against the identified individuals.
Recent reports suggest the widespread use of cyber bullying to ‘preserve the image of the police’. The Indonesia increasingly has kowtowed to the police narrative. No critical examination, or verification by reporters are done. Payment for print is a very common tactic to ensure the police enjoys media support.
‘The promises for a clean government by president Jokowi has vanished. The police has become the new enemy of the people’, says a criminologist expert from University of Indonesia. ‘To strike a balance between policing or returning to ‘Orde Baru’ methods of secret police camps, disappearances, false courts and deep, deep corruption is a ticking time bomb.’ he added.
In Papua the gun running operations by a Brimob member illustrates the concerns by the foreign diplomats, human rights monitors and the public alike. MJH came clean to police investigators of having delivered the rifles to another suspect, only identified as his initials as DC, a member of the Indonesian Shooting Association (Perbakin) in Nabire District, Papua Province, on seven occasions.
MJH confessed to having received between Rp10 million (US$ 1,000) and Rp30 million (US$ 3,000) for each of the rifles he had successfully delivered from Jakarta to DC. Thereafter, DC sold the rifles to the armed Papuan criminal groups through an ex-lawmaker in Intan Jaya District, Waterpauw revealed.
The police investigators are still on the lookout for the ex-member of the Intan Jaya District’s legislative assembly, he stated, adding that an ex-army personnel, identified as FHS, also got involved in this crime.
MJH, DC, and FHS remain under the Papua police’s custody, pending further probe into the arms trafficking activities in which the selling price of each of the assault rifles was between Rp300 million and Rp350 million, he stated.
Chief Brigadier MJH, an officer of the police’s elite mobile brigade, was arrested in Nabire District on October 21, 2020, along with an M16 rifle and M4 carbine.
This armed trafficking case came to light after a joint team of investigators from the National Police and TNI conducted a comprehensive probe into the recent rampant shootings by the Papuan armed criminal groups in several areas.
“At first, we faced some difficulties in uncovering the case since the arms trafficking activities are operated quite slickly, and official documents are available for the rifles and are supplied by air transport,” Waterpauw revealed in his earlier statement.
Local residents recruited as couriers in the criminal acts told the joint investigators that the arms trafficking operation had been conducted six times, he remarked, adding that the police chief had been informed about this latest arms trafficking case.
Waterpauw called to comprehensively uncover the case that had tarnished the institution’s image since the firearms sold to the armed criminals would endanger the lives of civilians and security personnel.
On the basis of the preliminary result of investigation, the firearms were sold to the armed criminal groups operating in Intan Jaya District. However, the investigation process is still underway, he noted.
Early this year, Waterpauw had warned his men against getting involved in arms trafficking activities with the armed criminal groups in Papua, affirming that he would take stern action against the offenders.
“There will be no pardon for those getting involved in arms trafficking activities. We are definitely sacking them. They will also be brought to court,” he told journalists during his visit to Timika, the capital of Mimika District, on January 13.
Waterpauw vouched for the high level of dedication, loyalty, and reliability of police officers posted in the Indonesian province of Papua. However, he did hint at a possibility of one or two errant officers.
It is time that real cops are needed, the police is cleaning house and eliminating corruption within the ranks. Otherwise why should anyone visit or invest in Indonesia.